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Counter-Surveillance

Understand how Counter-Surveillance can reduce the threats to your personal security and wellbeing when in a hostile environment.

Counter-surveillance, like anti-surveillance, is a necessary resource and skills set for anyone operating in a hostile environment. However, before discussing the elements of counter-surveillance, it is necessary to distinguish between anti-surveillance and counter-surveillance in order to understand how to conduct either effectively.

Anti-surveillance is a discipline that you carry out as an individual so that you can confirm whether you are under surveillance and by whom. Based on such knowledge, you can then decide what course of action you will pursue. If, for example, you are an expatriate working in Bangui (Central African Republic) and realise that your Christian beliefs might make you a target for kidnapping by the Seleka (an Islamist militia who deposed Christian President Francois Bozize in March 2013), you would be advised to adopt anti-surveillance practices to see whether you were under surveillance and if so, by whom. We teach the personal skills and techniques necessary to conduct your own anti-surveillance drills on our H.E.A.T. courses.

Counter-surveillance is a discipline that third parties carry out on your behalf. In other words, a counter-surveillance team will identify the presence of a surveillance team or technical surveillance equipment and gather intelligence about the individuals conducting such surveillance.

If, for example, you are in a hotel room in Lagos, Nigeria, and suspect that fraudsters might be monitoring your conversations, a counter-surveillance team would be used to establish the level of such technical surveillance and the perpetrators.

As the above real examples of situations in two African countries illustrate, most criminal acts involve some form of surveillance. Whilst there are several types of surveillance (static, mobile, fluid and technical), experience has shown that within the six stages of the attack cycle (target selection, planning, deployment, the attack, escape and exploitation), opportunities exist to determine whether you are under surveillance and what a counter-surveillance team can do for you.

Counter-surveillance is the process of detecting and neutralising hostile surveillance. As such, it allows for threats to be addressed before they can develop further. The success of a counter-surveillance operation relies on two elements: firstly, the hostile surveillance team (or individual) might lack suitable trade craft and are therefore vulnerable to detection; and secondly, hostile surveillance operatives can be forced into making mistakes that will show their hand.

The existence of surveillance can be determined by the acronym TEDS. If you see a person repeatedly over Time, in different Environments, over Distance and they look Suspicious, it is likely that they are observing you for intelligence gathering purposes.

Once you have established that you are under hostile surveillance, it is preferable that you contact a counter-surveillance team to identify and gather intelligence about those individuals who have placed you under surveillance. Otherwise, by constantly practicing anti-surveillance drills, you could alert the opposition to the fact that you are surveillance sensitive. This, in turn, could confirm their suspicions and heighten surveillance over your activities.

One common practice of professional counter-surveillance teams is to use surveillance detection routes (SDR) to force those conducting hostile surveillance to disclose themselves. The counter-surveillance team can also identify perches (spook-speak for locations) from which hostile surveillance of a potential target could be conducted.

Deploying static guards, roving patrols, stop and search, or vehicle checkpoints, individuals conducting hostile surveillance will be forced to move to other locations. By forcing hostile surveillance operatives further away from the target’s environment, the hostile surveillance effort is made more challenging.

If you want to know how to conduct effective and thorough counter-surveillance techniques, or suspect that you might be the target of hostile surveillance, contact us for a consultation.

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